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Free Study Guide: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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FREE STUDY GUIDE / CHAPTER SUMMARY: LITTLE WOMEN

Chapter 27: Literary Lessons

Summary

Jo tries her hand at a "mildly sensational" story and submits it to a newspaper in hopes of winning the 100 dollar prize. Although her father frowns at the type of story, Jo uses the money to send Marmee and Beth to the seaside to help Beth gain her health back. Jo continues to write and her stories find a market. Meanwhile she submits her novel, and on the fourth try, it is accepted on the condition that she cut it down by one third and omit many of her favorite parts. She has the family read it in order to give her advice, but none of them are of the same opinion. Bethís only concern is that it be published "soon."

Jo finally takes everyoneís advice and revises her story with an effort to please all. The book is published and Jo is paid 300 dollars, but the reviews are so mixed that she scarcely knows whether she has written a good book or not.

Notes

This chapter foreshadows Bethís death. Joís concern over whether the book was really good or not is in contrast with the motivations of LMA herself. LMA stated several times that she wrote only for money.


Chapter 28: Domestic Services


Summary

Meg learns to keep her own house and practices her cooking skills. In a desire to faithfully meet her husbandís needs, she tells him that he can bring friends home to dinner anytime and neednít bother to ask her first.

Megís good intention backfires when she decides to make currant jelly. After an entire day of cooking and recooking and making a complete mess of her kitchen, the jelly still wonít gel, and Meg canít bring herself to run to her mother for an answer to the problem.

John brings his friend Mr Scott home, but Meg is neither prepared nor willing to entertain company. When John makes a joke about the jelly, it is the last straw for Meg. She shuts herself in her room leaving John to entertain his friend. Later that evening they make up with Meg being the first to apologize.

Meg has access to her husbandís income and keeps a little account book which she voluntarily shows him every month. In the autumn of their first year, however, Meg spends a lot of time with Sally Moffat. They shop together and Meg, who loves pretty things, spends more money than she realizes. The worse expenditure is $50.00 for some shimmering silk cloth to make a new dress. Meg explains that she didnít mean to waste his money but that she canít help wanting nice things when she sees all that Sally has. Her words hurt John deeply; he doesnít scold or mention it again but he works later at night and finally cancels an order for a new coat for himself because he "canít afford it." Overcome with guilt, Meg persuades Sally to buy the silk; she then uses the money to buy the coat for John.

At the end of the chapter, Megís first children are born, a set of twins who are named Margaret and John Laurence and given the nicknames Daisey and Demi.

Notes

John and Meg are both at fault in their first quarrel. However, the submissive role that women of the day were taught to observe is expressed in Megís recall of her motherís advice to "be the first to ask pardon when you both err." The overspending on her part is a different matter though. Her girlish desires for pretty dresses and expensive trinkets mature suddenly as she has to decide between her wants and Johnís needs. Since Sally is seldom mentioned in subsequent chapters about Meg, we can assume that Meg spends less time with her following the incident.


Chapter 29: Calls

Summary

Amy has grown to be quite a lady with manners and bearing that suggest a higher class upbringing than she has actually had. She likes to call on various members of the community and has talked Jo into going with her on this occasion. Amy gives Jo specific instructions on how to behave at each home. Jo doesnít want to go in the first place, so she takes Amyís instructions to extremes and exaggerates the behavior at each place. At the first home, she is told to behave "properly," so she sits perfectly still, barely talks and is regarded by her hosts as "haughty and uninteresting." At the second, she is told to be sociable, so she kisses all the girls, beams at the gentlemen and joins in a lively chat about some of Amyís childhood episodes. At the Tudor home, Amy gives up and tells Jo to do whatever she likes. Thus when the time comes to leave, Jo is found sitting in the grass with a group of lively boys and their dog.

The visiting ends at Aunt Marchís house where Joís abruptness will eventually cost her. Aunt March and Aunt Carrol, who happens to be spending the day with Aunt March, discuss an upcoming fair which is to be sponsored by the wealthy Chesters. Jo scoffs at the fair, calling it a patronage and ridiculing Amy for agreeing to be a part of it. Jo insists that she prefers not to accept favors from people. A bit later the aunts get into a discussion about speaking foreign languages; Amy says she speaks French fairly well, but Jo scoffs at that idea also. When Aunt Marchís bird croaks a comment about taking a walk, Jo uses it as an excuse to leave.

Notes

The rivalry between Amy and Jo is awakened again in this chapter. There is no serious enmity, but Amy considers herself a very proper little lady and is understandably irritated because Jo couldnít care less whether she makes a particular impression on anyone or not. Jo is not as ignorant of good manners as she pretends to be, but is behaving obstinately because she didnít want to go calling but had obligated herself with an earlier promise.


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